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Nothing symbolizes one’s college years quite like college pranks. Well thought out and executed, the right college prank can immortalize the students who carry it out, cementing their status as legends at their college or university. Of course, not every college prank has this much staying power. (Kids who unleash chickens into the hallways the week before graduation are a dime a dozen.) No – in order to be enshrined among the true greats of college pranksters, you need something funny and original, something that is burned into the memories of all who witness it, and causes them to laugh at the mere thought of it for the rest of their lives.
To that end, here are 15 of the most awesome college pranks from past and present.
1. Putting a horse in the Dean’s office
The boldest and ballsiest college prank of all is from the 1978 classic Animal House, when Flounder (a Delta pledge) is cajoled into putting a horse into Dean Faber’s office in the middle of the night. But this wasn’t just any old horse. It was the prized pony of cocky, sadistic Doug Neidermeyer, the ROTC leader who had been making Flounder’s life hell for weeks. Sticking his horse in Faber’s office would frame Neidermeyer as the culprit, landing him in huge trouble with the school. Unfortunately, this prank goes a bit too far when Flounder fires a gun in the office, causing the horse to collapse and die on the floor!
2. The Great Rose Bowl Hoax
Nothing gets the collegiate competitive juices flowing quite like a bowl game, and this well-known fact set the stage for a prank Caltech and University of Washington students wont soon forget. Let’s just say the 100,000 fans filling the seats at Pasadena’s Rose Bowl stadium to watch Washington take on Minnesota were shocked to see “CALTECH” emblazoned on Washington’s halftime flip-card!
3. The Statue of Liberty Prank
A legendary prank school (though not so well known for its intellectual prowess), University of Wisconsin students attained college prank immortality by constructing a life-sized replica of the head and right arm of New York’s Statue of Liberty atop a frozen lake near the school. Had everyone not seen the students building the huge model, the pranksters’ story that they had gotten the real statue shipped from New York but it fell into the lake might have been more believable!
4. Millions of Contest Entries
These days, contests and sweepstakes rules are long (and restrictive) enough to rival a paperback book. This was not the case in 1975 however, when McDonalds launched a contest offering (among other things) a free Datsun Z with the cheery phrase “Enter as often as you wish!” Caltech students took that literally, rigging a computerized bot to churn out 1.2 million entry coupons with the names of Caltech students who had chosen to enter the contest. McDonalds was none to happy with this deliciously funny prank, remarking that it was “in complete contradiction of the American standards of fair play and sportsmanship.“
5. The Plutonium Prank
The University of Chicago’s four-day “Scav Hunt” event has produced some truly memorable pranks over the years. But none of them can compete with what happened in 1999, when Fred Neill and Justin Kasper actually created plutonium in a nuclear reactor they put together using spare parts and junk they rummaged up in the physics department. It’s a good thing these students knew what they were doing, or this prank could’ve gone from funny to no laughing matter in no time!
6. The Lying Contest
In 2000, the Donside Paper Company sponsored a “lying contest” for graphic design students. Entrants from the Edinburgh College of Art were given three challenges, of which they could pick and respond to one:
1) Successfully promote the Bermuda Triangle as a holiday destination
2) Design a “welcome pack” for a shopaholic’s destination
3) Tell a lie convincingly
Unfortunately for entrants, the contest was soon canceled – or so it appeared. Turns out, one of the entrants sent out mass mailings to Edinburgh students (using the Edinburgh letterhead) explaining that the contest had been called off. Falling for the trap, the school began obediently turning away new contest entries and reiterating that the contest was a no-go. It wasn’t until much later that the school realized this was itself part of the contest: a student who took the “tell a lie convincingly” option and successfully convinced the entire school the contest was canceled. Fittingly, this student won the contest, which of course was not actually canceled at all.
7. The “Arm The Homeless” Campaign
Ohio citizens were outraged in 1993 when what appeared to be a newly formed charity began rallying the public to “arm the homeless” with guns and ammunition. While some dismissed the charity, people soon saw that it was indeed serious, as mall santas were dispatched to collect money for the charity and numerous press releases stated that fund raising would continue. Letters of criticism poured into newspapers and even reached major media outlets like Rush Limbaugh. Eventually, when public outrage came to a high boil, it was revealed that an Ohio State graduate had put the entire thing together as a hoax.
8. The Staged Yankee Stadium Proposal Prank
The elite college pranksters are not content to pull off just one prank. Rather, they are fond of getting into prolonged prank wars which escalate into bigger, more elaborate and epic pranks over time. These two Connecticut students got into a prank war for the ages, culminating in the staged Yankee Stadium proposal. In it, Streeter (one of the participants in the prank war) is given a pair of tickets for him and his girlfriend to attend a Yankees game. But little does he know that a marraige proposal in his name is going to appear on the gigantic centerfield scoreboard in the middle of the fifth inning. But while Streeter’s girlfriend was ecstatic and said yes, Streeter had the awkward task of explaining that it was all a joke and he wasn’t trying to propose.
The results aren’t pretty!
9. The Thousand Senior March
This video shows a thousand college-bound seniors crossing the street from one building to the next. Nothing out of the ordinary here, right? Well, not until you realize that these thousand kids crossed the street in a single-file line with no interruptions, causing traffic to back up for miles. Honking and angry motorists abound as the kids keep right on crossing without letting a single car through. Click the link below to see it all unfold!
10. Dorm Full of Condoms
Dorm rooms are the stage upon which so many great college pranks have been sprung over the years, and this video shows one in action. The pranksters here have cleverly conspired to fill an ex-roomate’s entire suite full of inflated condoms, a prank that neither the ex-roomate nor the current Resident Advisor were very happy to deal with!
In late 2000, BonsaiKitten.com debuted online as a website claiming to educate people on how to raise kittens inside glass jars. (This was, of course, a spoof on the Japanese practice of growing small Bonsai trees in jars.) But while some simply laughed at the site, others were far from amused. The Humane Society of the United States was one of many such animal rights organizations to denounce the site and demand that it be taken down.
Soon thereafter, it was discovered that BosaiKitten.com was a gag website hosted on MIT web servers. Unfortunately, this revelation was not enough to calm public outrage, and the FBI launched a full-blown investigation with subpoenas in 2001. The website was eventually taken down for good after appearing and dissapearing from various servers across the Internet.
12. Chickens in the Dorm Room
Okay, so we began this article by saying how hackneyed and overdone this prank is, but as this video shows, it can still be pulled off. The unsuspecting dorm dwellers in this video return to their dorm to find nearly two dozen chickens flying around the room and a small mountain of feed littering the floor. Their attempts to clean things up and shoo the chickens away only make things worse, causing them to flutter about the room and spread bits and pieces of feed even further.
13. Ipecac Roommate Prank
For those who don’t know, Ipecac is a vomit-inducing substance used to help people throw up poisonous or dangerous things they have consumed. As one might imagine, this makes Ipecac useful for any number of pranks. One of the better ones can be seen here. An irate roomate finds out the hard way that his V8 juice was spiked with Ipecac when he throws up all over his bed. Furious and afraid, he calls his other roomate demanding to know why he poisoned him and what’s going to happen to him next. (Be sure to herd the kids out of the room before clicking play on this one, as the expletives are plentiful!)
14. Duct Taped Into His Dorm Room
Professors have heard just about every excuse for student lateness, but “I couldn’t come because my friends duct-taped my door shut” might be breaking new ground! That’s exactly what the pranksters in this video did, covering a friend’s door from top to bottom and side to side with industrial strength duct tape. It was never discovered just how hard of a time he had getting out, but one imagines it was quite a struggle indeed!
15. Veterans of Future Wars
Incensed by the way 1935 World War One veterans received their bonuses ten years early (to ease the pains of the Great Depression), a mob of college students proposed an even more radical idea: getting bonuses up-front, for wars they would fight in the future. Calling themselves “the Veterans of Future Wars”. The crusade picked up significant coverage in the media and drew the ire of existing veterans, who believed anyone petitioning to be paid before fighting was probably unfit for battle in the first place. (In fact, Veterans of Future Wars has grown from a prank to a serious organization built around anti-war protests and demonstrations, enjoying a huge revival in 2003 with the invasion of Iraq.)
Nevertheless, a prank so historic deserves mention on any worthwhile list of college pranks from the past and present.